OK, it’s not that I mean I need help washing—promise! This post is about two separate subjects: help, as in I need some--in the form of a research assistant/intern--and washing, as in a lot of people have been asking how I wash my body and my home environmentally. First, about washing (but if you’re dying to be my intern you better scroll down fast!).
As you all know, a big part of the No Impact experiment is creating no trash. In particular, I have developed a little OCD when it comes to disposable products. I use a straight edge razor (great for removing pimples…joking!) and you all know about the cloth shopping bags. Another thing I’m finally getting rid of is the plastic bottles that shampoo, moisturizer and cleaning products come in.
I’ve already disposed of the toothpaste tubes thanks to baking soda (see I’m
sacrificing my teeth to the environment). Also, my friend Vanessa who blogs at greenasathistle.com suggests Eco-Dent floss, which contains no animal products and comes in a recyclable cardboard container.
(Note to self: hurry up and stop using disposable pens, the last disposable product in our house. Get out all those fountain tips that your aunts and uncles gave you every Christmas.)
Before I tell you the how of my new washing regime, a little more about the why. Commercial shampoos and soaps and cleaning products have about umpteen million chemicals in them that are bad for the environment—bad for the drinking water, bad for aquatic life, just bad (is there a commenter out there who can give us the details of the bad chemicals?). A couple of days ago, the New York Times reported:
“Worries about water-borne chemicals flared last summer when researchers at the United States Geological Survey said they had discovered “intersex fish” in the
Potomac River and its tributaries. The fish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, were male but nevertheless carried immature eggs.
Scientists who worked on the project said they did not know what was causing the situation, or even if it was a new phenomenon. But the discovery renewed fears that hormone residues or chemicals that mimic them might be affecting creatures that live in the water.”
On top of the pollution aspect, Michelle, my wife, is also concerned about Isabella coming into contact with the various toxins and carcinogens in the cleaning products. Michelle has this idea that two-year-olds shouldn’t drink things with words on the label like chloro or fluoro or sulphate. Add to these reasons my love of a good chemistry experiment and away we go.
First off, we had been using the eco-products you buy from health food stores (see below), so I saved some empty bottles to put my own goop in and gave the half empty bottles to Peggy, Isabella’s babysitter. Then, I bought a big bottle of highly concentrated castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's), which is biodegradable and contains only saponified organic vegetable oils, a big box of borax, a big bottle of white vinegar, and, thanks to my pearly whites, I already had the baking soda. Admittedly, the castile soap came in a plastic bottle (made from 100% recycled, that is), but I figure one plastic bottle is better than twenty. I’ll get around to making castile soap from olive oil myself later.
Now for the recipes:
Household cleanser—One quart water, 1 teaspoon borax, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon castile soap (you can see my supplies will last until I’m about 76 and it’s way cheaper than store bought).
Soap—You can use castile soap but we’re using soap made from local beeswax and bought at the farmers' market.
Shampoo—Seven ounces of filtered water, one ounce castile soap, one teaspoon olive oil. [Since writing this post, I've decided I'm not a great fan of this recipe. I now use baking soda mixed with water. It doesn't suds but it cleans really well. NIM 6/28/07]
Of course, if you can’t be bothered to mix this stuff up, just go to your local health food store and buy the eco-products that are explicitly labeled “nontoxic” (an FDA term) and biodegradable, are plant rather than petroleum based (I avoid animal based products too), and contain no chlorine bleach, benzyne, toluene, xylene, trichlorethane or phosphates. Buy them concentrated and large to avoid extra plastic packaging.
Drum roll, please…No Impact Man (otherwise known as little old me) is now accepting (otherwise known as begging for) applications for a research assistant/intern position. I’ll put you to work and for all that hard work I’ll pay you, um, nothing. Yeah, sorry, it’s an unpaid gig because I can’t afford to pay right now. [This position is no longer open. NIM 6/28/07]
What you’ll get is experience working with a three-time author, a chance to help him promote his ideas about acting like a good guest on this planet earth, and exposure to a lot of interesting people. Most importantly, you’ll no doubt get to meet Isabella and Frankie (if you want to win them over, Isabella likes muffins—not allowed in the NIM rules but no one will listen—and Frankie likes, well, anything).
What you’ll need to offer is ten hours a week of time, a smart brain, good communication skills, your own computer and a home or other space situation (in New York City) you can work in, a demonstrated interest in environmentalism and/or journalism, and a commitment to stick with it for a few months. Responsibilities will include research, phoning, and correspondence.
Interested? Send me a note and résumé at noimpactman[at]gmail[dot]com
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.